Through hard work and help from sponsors, Joanna graduated college. Now she shows her younger siblings how to reach the same educational milestones.  

PH 2016 Manila 71

Joanna, a Holt-sponsored scholar, will graduate in spring 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in math and teaching.

Joanna wakes up before dawn most days, and dresses for a day of class and teaching by 5 a.m. She’s quiet as she prepares to leave, careful not to wake the whole family, but privacy is a luxury she does not have.

Joanna shares her 250-square-foot home with 15 other people — four nieces under the age of 5, her teenaged brother, her two sisters and their husbands, both parents, and an aunt, uncle and two cousins. The house is so small, it’s hard to imagine where 16 people would possibly sleep. The main floor is both the kitchen and living room, and you can touch both walls with outstretched arms. Every blank space is lined with storage crates and stacks of clothing and bedding.

Joanna steps into a thin alley lined with homes on both sides. She ducks under clothes hanging on wires, and climbs up about 50 yards of stairs to the main road.

It’s an hour ride to school through bustling Manila, and sometimes, because traffic is so bad, it can take much longer.

PH 2016 Manila 76

The living room of Joanna’s home, which she shares with 15 family members. Her mother is standing at left, in a teal-colored shirt.

It’s Joanna’s final year of college, and in June 2016 she will graduate with a degree in math and teaching. She’s also student teaching, sometimes in classrooms with as many as 50 students, without pay.

“My challenge is balancing my workload and also learning to manage so many students,” Joanna says.

Joanna is a “scholar” — a student chosen by Holt’s partner in the Philippines, Kaisahang Buhay Foundation (KBF), to receive educational support all the way through college graduation. With the help of Holt sponsors, Joanna’s tuition, books and supplies are all covered. She also has access to mentors and advocates, and Joanna’s social worker does everything she can to ensure that she, like all Holt-sponsored children, has the resources she needs to be successful.

The program is designed to help promising students stay in school as long as possible, gain skilled employment and create generational change in their families — hopefully escaping poverty forever. For Joanna’s family, the fact that she will graduate with a four-year degree is tremendously exciting. “I’m very proud of Joanna,” her oldest sister says.

PH 2016 Manila 63

Joanna with three other Holt-sponsored scholars.

Carol, Joanna’s mother, is hopeful that if Joanna can land a steady teaching job, she may make enough money to help her little brother and four nieces stay in school.

“Joanna is the example,” Carol says. “I want my son to stay in school as long as he can, too.”

Joanna says she hopes she can work in a government school next year, and she says she is deeply grateful to her sponsors for their ongoing support.

Billie Loewen | Creative Lead

Stories Up Next

All Stories
three girls smile for photo in the Philippines

Become someone’s hero. Sponsor a child in Southeast Asia.

Find a child in need